Managing your blood sugar when you have diabetes can be challenging. You may find that you and your doctor have to try a few different drugs before finding the best fit for you and your body.
Many people with diabetes have to take insulin in order to control their blood sugar. Insulin cannot be given in pill form and must be given by injection into the fatty tissue under the skin. Insulin can be given by needle and syringe, insulin pump, or by an insulin pen device.1
Your doctor will give you more information on your insulin pen, including how to use the device. A diabetic educator may also talk to you about the device.
What is an insulin pen?
An insulin pen is an injection device that is about the size and shape of a marker. The device contains insulin, the medication used to help control your blood sugar levels.1
Most insulin pens are disposable. This means the entire pen is thrown away after a single-use. Some insulin pens have prefilled insulin cartridges that you attach to the device itself. When the cartridge is empty, you replace it with another one. If you use an insulin pen with a refillable cartridge, you use a new needle every time you inject insulin.2
Why are there different types of insulin pens?
Not all insulin pens are created equal. Because you are unique, your insulin needs are different than others. To meet these different needs, there are different types of insulin pens.
To start, there are different types of insulin. These are sorted by how quickly they work, the length of time at which they peak, and how long they continue to work:3
Rapid-acting – Works within 15 minutes and peaks within 1 hour. This type lasts between 2 to 4 hours.
Short-acting – Works within 30 minutes and peaks between 2 to 3 hours. This type lasts between 3 to 6 hours.
Intermediate-acting – Works within 1 to 2 hours and peaks between 4 to 12 hours. This type lasts around 12 to 18 hours.
Long-acting – Works within a few hours and lasts up to a full day.
Pre-mixed – Usually is a mix of a rapid-acting insulin and an intermediate-acting insulin.
One new type of insulin pen is a fixed-ratio combination (FRC). This type of insulin pen delivers a combination of insulin and an insulin-enhancing drug in a single injection. The FRC combines a base insulin with a drug that helps improve the production of insulin within the body.4,5
This FRC has been shown to improve blood sugar levels among those with type 2 diabetes who require insulin therapy.4,5
Benefits to using an insulin pen
There are several benefits to using an insulin pen device. Some of these advantages include:1
No need to draw up insulin from the vial. This saves time and reduces the risk of accidental mistakes in dosing.
No need to refrigerate the pen after removing it from its packaging.
Most insulin types are available by insulin pen.
Doses are easily dialed. This reduces the risk of dosing mistakes.
Most insulin pens use shorter, thinner needles than a syringe method.
As always, ask your doctor about your insulin pen. Using an insulin pen may be a valuable part of managing your diabetes.
Understanding the Insulin Pen: An Educational Resource for People with Diabetes. Med-IQ. Available at https://www.med-iq.com/files/noncme/material/pdfs/SA161_PED_Final_1012.pdf. Accessed 8/2/2020.
Insulin Pens. Drugs.com. Available at https://www.drugs.com/cg/insulin-pens.html. Accessed 8/1/2020.
Insulin Basics. American Diabetes Association. Available at
https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/medication-management/insulin-other-injectables/insulin-basics. Accessed 8/1/2020.
Glucagon Type Peptide 1. Endocrine Society. Available at https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/horm
ones/glucagon-like-peptide-1. Accessed 8/1/2020.
Fixed-Ratio Combination of Basal Insulin and GLP-1 Receptor
Agonist. Pharmacy Times. Available at https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/health-system-edition/2017/September2017/fixedratio-combination-of-basal-insulin-and-glp1-receptor-agonist. Accessed 8/1/2020.